Industry News

What to do with Your Influencer Program in the Off Season

July 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Influencer marketing – enabling social media thought leaders to tell your brand’s story – in the outdoor industry faces unique challenges compared to other markets (a few examples might be food products, casual/non-technical lifestyle goods, electronics).

Brands with evergreen product can launch influencer campaigns essentially without burden.

The same isn’t true for us.

We are often supporting products designed for a very specific period of time or specific seasonal use.

So what happens to the momentum you built from, say, November to April when backcountry skiing was all that mattered to your customers and your influencers helped build awareness and enthusiasm?

It could be backcountry skiing, fat biking, or ski mountaineering but the question is the same: how do you continue utilizing the influencers you carefully enabled to help strengthen your story once the off-season arrives?

Here are five tips from our experiences helping Verde Brand Communications’ clients who sell in season-specific categories.

The “On” Season

Even though winter might be over, knowing how your influencers spend the rest of their year is important. Do they spend time doing other sports or activities that share values with your in-season campaign? 

photo_BjornBauer
Photo: Bjorn Bauer 

Take Backcountry Access’ (BCA) “Direct2Dirtbag” campaign as an example: the heart of this program is about the lengths its customers will go to get into the backcountry.

A dirtbag will sacrifice a lot in order to pursue their passion (relationships, a roof, employment). And whether it’s in winter or summer, chances are good they are prioritizing another activity with similar vigor.

In BCA’s case, Direct2Dirtbag members are finding application for the brand’s products in their “off” season. The same packs they tested to carve lines in fresh powder become essential on long, high country mountain bike rides for tools, extra clothes, hydration, etc. Enable your influencer use this unexpected (but not off-base) connection with your products to continue promoting the campaign.

Connect

The off-season can be the perfect chance to bring unity to the campaign and its influencer members. And the public can and should be involved. Think about organizing a live Google Hangout; it’s an opportunity invite your team – who might be scattered around the country or world – to chat together in one place, recap the season, talk about highlights, ambitions for next year, and offer extra context for how they used your brand’s products. A Twitter chat can serve the same purpose but video from a Google Hangout can be recorded, redistributed, and parsed for marketing purposes later. It can also give the public a chance to chat with the testers live, hear their stories, and share how they might get involved, too.

photo_Jennifer_RolfePhoto: Jennifer Rolfe

Survey 

A real success metric for influencer campaigns should be how effectively were you able to not only raise public-facing brand awareness and engagement, but also gather genuine performance feedback from members of the campaign.

Use the off-season as an opportunity to collect data around the most critical aspects of the products tested. Simple and free surveys can be initiated on Google Docs or Survey Monkey with questions designed to get focus group-level data.

Common questions around fit and performance can be recorded, but you might also get more out of the box reactions: “where was the most interesting place you took X product,” “what was the most memorable reaction you got from your friends about X product,” or even, “if you could customize X product, what is the first change you’d make?” 

Not only will this information serve product development in the future, it is also helping to empower real users to influence product direction while deepening their connection and loyalty to your brand.

photo_SteveWeiss
Photo: Steve Weiss

Curate

Your influencer team should have been selected for their mastery of many social channels. Examine your members for strengths and weaknesses in how they engaged with the campaign. Was Twitter their primary channel? Pinterest? Use their performance to evaluate how other channels might be used next time and how your influencers can help build your brand and the campaign in areas that weren’t initially supported. If a channel like direct email was rarely (or never) used, consider trying it in the off-season by telling your customers about the season’s campaign in a curated way; gather some of the best content and quotes from the campaign and share the package as an extension of your consumer-direct marketing. This is also the chance to promote the upcoming season’s campaign and could be where your customers “apply” to join. This will give you a leg up on researching potential members and will create demand for the campaign.

photo_Jennifer_Rolfe_2
Photo: Jennifer Rolfe

Sell 

The beauty of influencer campaigns is the way it delivers marketing messages and raises brand awareness in an organic, authentic way. But depending on the level of success and your goals, the campaign can become an even more mature marketing effort.

Many influencers enjoy taking part in branded campaigns because not only are they able to use and test amazing gear, it also elevates their individual brand. It says, “I have expert level knowledge of my sport.” So it’s important to provide influencers a tool kit of branded assets like images and approved copy that they can use in their website sidebar or Instagram bio (just two of many applications).

Earning inbound links from influential websites is still a super critical component of SEO. These members can use branded images linking to your site while at the same time showcasing a branded visual to promote the campaign. This also creates an opportunity for the members to offer exclusives like discount codes and targeted specials for their audiences. It’s a nice way to use influencers to support sell-through during the off-season or during your slower sales period.

 

Contact Verde’s Craig Randall with comments or to brainstorm your first (or next!) influencer campaign: [email protected] + 303 718 6519

CraigRandall

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